I've always said that Mulder pulled off comedy better than drama--and Evolution clearly supports this idea. David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott, and Julianne Moore make a great comedic quartet in this humorous sci-fi comedy from director Ivan Reitman: Duchovny and Jones are a pair of brainiacs with a frat-boy sense of maturity, Scott portrays his stereotyped clueless idiot, and Moore is a bumbling deputy director for the CDC who constantly trips over her own two feet. These four unlikely heroes are thrown together to stop an alien menace from getting out of hand.
Evolution can be thought of as Ghostbusters with aliens replacing the apparitions. When a meteor crashes to earth, single-celled organisms that were along for the ride begin to multiply at an alarming rate. Aggressively dividing and adapting, they evolve billions of times faster than earth life. In a matter of days, a virtual alien ecosystem has sprung up around the meteor crash site. Duchovny and Jones, two science professors from the local community college, catalog the amazing discovery, but the government quickly finds out about their work and seizes control of the situation. It's not long before the alien organisms evolve into large beasts that pose a serious threat, and the government and scientists are at odds on how to dispose of them.
This movie's biggest asset is its teaming up of David Duchovny and Orlando Jones. Thanks to his long running role as FBI agent Fox Mulder on The X-Files, Duchovny's presence alone brings a certain irreverent spoof quality to Evolution. When he tells Jones that he is familiar with the government and that they are not to be trusted, he evokes laughter from the audience with a simple line that would have no deeper meaning with any other performer (well, except maybe Gillian Anderson). He maintains Mulder's sly, muted sense of humor, which is a wonderful contrast to the utter foolishness around him--he's the straightman thrust into science fiction at its most preposterous, but not above throwing out an occasional joke. Whether he's debating the sensitivities of the white man, dissing his ex-girlfriend, mooning the military, or praising his partner for taking a probe up the butt "like a man," Duchovny demonstrates a flair for comedy told with a straight face. Meanwhile, Orlando Jones keeps things flowing with the demeanor of a stand-up comic. (Important lesson delivered: "There's always time for lubricant!")
Seann William Scott is the same character he played in the God awful Dude, Where's My Car?, but he's got more focus here as a sidekick, and his moron routine fits well. And Julianne Moore--well, what can you say? This Oscar-caliber actress went from picking up the role of Clarice Starling in this year's Hannibal to being Evolution's female stooge. That alone is funny. Her character of Dr. Allison Reed is supposed to have a brain on her shoulders, but you might not tell that from her non-stop stumbling. She falls down when she is introduced at the beginning of the movie, she falls off a fire truck at the end of the movie, and she falls down about three other times in the interim. Her clumsiness is never mentioned or explained, but makes for a good visual gag.
Scoring a couple of bonus points as a date movie, Evolution has a surprising amount of fright scenes in its middle stretch of runtime. Not psychological fright, mind you--more like "you know a disgusting monster is about to suddenly leap out and shock you" fright. Virtually all of the aliens are creepy, crawly, or oozing.
Evolution's primary flaw is how it just about drops the ball at the end. The last thirty minutes feel extremely pressed for a clean resolution, and dumb luck plays a far larger part than it should have. So as not to give too much away, I'll just say that the resolution is quick, simple, and comes out of the blue. Mulder just suddenly gets inspired with a hunch, then mobilizes the whole town with what he thinks is the key to defeating the aliens. Without ever testing his idea, he puts everyone on the front line, only to find that his hunch was the perfect solution. Well, isn't that convenient? In fact, that's just as convenient as Orlando Jones flicking a lit match across the room, only to have it land in a petri dish and demonstrate how the alien cells react to fire.
Compounding the disappointment is the way the alien threat of billions of separate and varied creatures is suddenly simplified into one giant alien. While this affords Duchovny and Jones the hilarious opportunity to battle "the big sphincter" (don't ask, just go watch it), it's a bit anti-climactic. Also, the tactic used to dispatch the gargantuan enemy is far too reminiscent of the Ghostbusters sequel, making the ending of this film a lot less inspired than its clever and entertaining beginning.
Evolution's brand of comedy is best suited for those who appreciate genre in-jokes mixed with movie cliches, and low-brow comedy mixed with sci-fi suspense. But even those not familiar with these elements may find a smile or two with the solid cast, and fans of David Duchovny definitely have a movie worth checking out.
Rating: 8 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)